The night Roger Clemens struck out 20 Mariners, I sat in my bedroom, scratching away at my homework, listening to the game on the radio. At the ten strikeout mark, I ran downstairs to update my Dad (something in my mind tells me that the game was aired on NESN, which we didn’t have at the time, but I’m not completely sure). And again at the twelve mark. Then the thirteen. At the fifteen, I simply yelled down the stairs to him. By the sixteenth, he was upstairs in my room with me, hunkered down next to the radio. Helping me count off the strikes. High-fiving me when history was made.
Though I’d been a Red Sox fan since birth — in my house, you had to be, at least if you wanted to eat — it was that season, the 1986 season, that saw my love for this team blossom into full-on, leg-humping lust. It was my “coming of age” year as a Sox fan. And Clemens was at the red-hot center of it all.
So with all the emotion — both good and bad — that his memory conjures, it wasn’t surprising that when talk of trying to lure him back to Boston kicked in, I started having the Roger Clemens dream.
Not the one where he’s dressed in a full-length deer costume while his wife Debbie oils me down with Lemon Pledge. Although that’s a pretty cool one. No, this was the one where he came back to the Boston Red Sox for the balance of the 2007 season. Thrusting his middle finger in the face of George and Brian and Andy and Mussina, that smug motherf–ker, and helping us bury the last vestiges of the Yankee dynasty. If there are, in fact, any left to bury.
And I welcomed him back. And I didn’t even give a sh-t that he only came here because he needed a third ring for his left hand or wanted to unseat Cy Young as the Sox’ winnigest pitcher or was dying to hack the Fenway e-mail system so he could send Dan Duquette scans of his ass. He was choosing the 2007 Red Sox over the 2007 Yankees and it was like a cleat on the throat of a drowning man. More importantly, the guy who most of my youthful Red Sox memories are inextricably linked to was back in the fold.
And in this dream, he said all the right things. About how it was good to be back where it all began. And how he couldn’t wait to chow down at Legal Sea Food. And how “I guess I better start hatin’ on the Yankees again.” And how he couldn’t wait to join Schilling and Beckett in the rotation, and learn “Chinese” so he could talk to Matsuzaka, and start mentoring Jon Lester. And how he never realized how much he missed this place until that afternoon in 2003 when we gave him a standing ovation during what we thought would be his last walk off the Fenway mound. “From that moment, I knew,” he said in the dream, “that my career would not be complete until I was once again a Boston Red Sock.”
And I thought it would happen. Hell, I convinced myself it would. If he really, truly wants to play for the team best equipped to win the World Series, I figured, it would have to be Boston, right? And even after I heard it wasn’t going to happen, I thought, “That can’t be right. That’s not how it’s supposed to end.” But he fooled me again. Again.
So it’s over. And that’s fine. I’m man enough to say I’m disappointed. Because now I know that the Boston legacy I figgered he’d want to protect ain’t worth more than a couple bags of Funyuns to the guy. I mean, what kind of man would rather entrust his slim, two-run lead in the ninth to Mariano Rivera v2007 instead of Jonathan Papelbon? The answer: no kind of man at all.
To Roger, all I can say is… WTF? Despite the fact that you’ve donned the pinstripes, if you had come back to Boston you could have owned this town. I’m talking fans carrying you out on their shoulders after each start, and carting your Texas ass down to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a couple T-bones. I’m talking grown men telling their bosses to go pound sand; that they’re heading to Fenway Park to welcome you back. I’m talking the pre- and post-game show for every one of your starts being nothing more than Caron and Eck lighting candles and openly weeping and hugging before an oversized poster of your mug. I’m talking Hazel Mae forgetting herself during each interview, begging for the chance to service you, and even offering a “two fer” with Tina Cervasio.
Hey, I can’t blame you. $28 million dollars is a fine sum of cash. Certainly enough to ensure that Kody, Kory, Kassidy, Kaiser, Kalifornia and all your other kids and your grandkids and possibly your great-grandkids will never have to work a day of their lives.
But you had a chance to right wrongs. To rewrite history. To complete your career with the team many people feel you never should have been allowed to leave. And you passed it all up. For what? To be another expensive brick in a brokedown palace? To be George’s pet monkey, another high-priced tricycle he can show off in the schoolyard? To spend a year playing grab-ass with Andy, Jeets and Posada? Good luck with that. And with the inevitable “$28 million for this bag of sh-t?” headlines in the NY Post when your knees give out ’round August.
I think my man Kurt Busiek summed it up best in yesterday’s comments: “A good team needs to beat good villains. And Clemens makes a better villain than he does a hero.”
Amen to that. And your piss frisbee’s in the mail, Roger.